Women and trade

Women and trade

Increasing the participation of women in the labour market could increase countries' productivity, leading to greater economic diversification, innovation and poverty reduction. Trade has an important role to play in driving this economic growth by supporting women's empowerment and by advancing gender equality.

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Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender

The Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender was established on 23 September 2020 to strengthen the WTO's efforts to increase women's participation in global trade (WT/L/1095/Rev.1). It consists of 127 WTO members and observers.

The work of the Working Group is based on four pillars:

  • reviewing analytical work undertaken
  • experience sharing
  • considering the concept and scope for a “gender lens”
  • contributing to the Aid for Trade work programme

On 26 February 2021, the Working Group adopted a Work Plan to help advance their activities and to focus their work towards the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). This work focuses on developing a better understanding of the trade and gender nexus and how gender is integrated into members’ trade policies. A progress report on this work is available here: INF/TGE/R/1.

Work in the WTO Secretariat

The work of the WTO is driven by action plans on trade and gender covering 2017 to 2020 and 2021 to 2026. The overall aim is to:

  • support WTO members in their work on trade and gender
  • build capacity on trade and gender issues
  • foster research and data collection
  • mainstream gender issues in the WTO Secretariat
  • improve awareness of trade and gender internationally.

This work is led by the Head of the WTO Trade and Gender Unit, Ms Anoush der Boghossian (please contact: [email protected]).

The Activity Report for 2017-2020 details the initiatives undertaken to advance women's economic empowerment and how the WTO has achieved its objectives.

WTO Gender Research Hub

The WTO Secretariat launched the WTO Gender Research Hub in May 2021 to deepen understanding of the impact of trade on women and gender equality. The Hub serves as a knowledge-gathering platform where the latest research is shared .

Trade&Gender 360° Strategy

The Trade&Gender 360° Strategy is the WTO's capacity-building programme on trade and gender for government officials and women entrepreneurs.

Capacity building for government officials on trade and gender

The objectives of the programme are to:

  • give a new perspective on how trade can impact women's economic empowerment
  • help explain why trade rules are not gender neutral
  • deliver solutions on how to integrate gender into trade policies, based on members'practices
  • assist government officials in their work on trade and gender
  • collect data on gender-related trade policies, initiatives, programmes and statistics from members
  • help drive research by collecting information on members’ priorities
  • focus on the needs of governments prior to providing relevant training.

BRIDGE: Capacity-building for women entrepreneurs

The WTO seeks to improve understanding of the obstacles preventing women from entering the global marketplace, to strengthen businesswomen's capacity to export goods and services and to promote inclusive trade.

WTO BRIDGE is a training programme aimed at bridging the knowledge gap for women entrepreneurs regarding trade rules (more information on the launch to come). This programme seeks to remove the key obstacles preventing women from entering the global marketplace. Currently, the WTO is working on establishing partnerships with other international organizations to implement this programme.

Data collection

The WTO is actively engaged in gathering data on trade and gender.

Between 2019 and 2020, the WTO undertook three regional surveys in East Africa, South Asia and Latin America on women entrepreneurs to assess constraints they face in exporting goods and services and to assess their knowledge gaps on trade rules. The BRIDGE programme is aimed at addressed these issues.

The WTO intends to conduct new surveys in 2022 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs and will adjust BRIDGE in response to the findings.

Annually, the WTO publishes a report highlighting key statistics regarding female leadership in the WTO, looking at both the WTO membership and the Secretariat. The report outlines the current gender breakdown in the WTO.

Trade Policy Reviews

WTO members have used Trade Policy Reviews to highlight policy developments that contribute to gender equality. Since 2018, 55% of Trade Policy Reviews have contained information provided by WTO members on their gender-responsive trade policies (totalling 25 out of 45 reviews carried out between January 2018 and September 2021).

Empowering women through Aid for Trade

Aid for Trade has a clear mandate to conduct work on gender. In 2006, the Aid for Trade Task Force report (WT/AFT/1) stated: “Aid for Trade should be rendered in a coherent manner taking full account … of the gender perspective and of the overall goal of sustainable development”. The report also calls on donors and partner countries to jointly commit to the “harmonization of efforts on cross-cutting issues, such as gender equality”.

Since 2007, Aid for Trade donors and partner countries have gradually integrated the issue of gender into their Aid for Trade strategies. The 2019 Monitoring and Evaluation Exercise reveals that 84% of donors' Aid for Trade strategies and 85% of partner countries' national or regional development strategies seek to promote women's economic empowerment.

For more information

Please contact the WTO's Trade and Gender Unit: [email protected].

International Women's Day 2023: Inclusive Reglobalization

A Conversation between Christine Lagarde and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

8 March 2023

Working papers

Full list 



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